Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: ‘I reckon here at Manchester United we got our Christmas present early – right at the start of the season in fact, when Robin van Persie arrived at Old Trafford. I am reluctant to subscribe to the cult of an individual because I firmly believe that the essence of a successful football team depends on team-work, and neither are we a one-man team, but sometimes there really is a situation where you are lucky enough to find the last piece of the jigsaw. We did it when we brought Eric Cantona to Old Trafford where he proved to be the right player at the right club at the right time. He became the catalyst and springboard for our surge to success. It doesn’t have to be signing someone for a record fee; Eric was in fact a snip at a million. Cristiano Ronaldo was not a record buy either but he certainly made a difference as he prospered with us to the extent that he came to be regarded by a lot of people as the world’s best player.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
Runner-up: “No-one coming into this football club will demand where they play, that’s for sure. As with any negotiations between any club and any player it has not been straightforward. As you’ve seen over the last number of weeks, there are always going to be things written about players, clubs and dealings. Nothing will be complete until we’ve signed a player at the beginning of January but until anything is done on paper there is nothing to say. We’ll always do our business privately and in the way we want to do it. We’re confident we can get some business done early in January, which will really help the squad. Until that happens, there is nothing really to add. We don’t want to make many [signings] in January, but the one or two we do I think can make a difference and help us. If we can do that, I think we’ll have a good second half to the season.” – Brendan Rodgers.
Barcelona tell Arsenal to forget about David Villa
Gunned down: Barcelona tell Arsenal to forget about signing Villa (Darren Witcoop, Daily Mirror) Arsenal have been told to forget about making an audacious loan move for Barcelona striker David Villa. The Spanish striker, 31, is out-of-favour at the Nou Camp… Villa will not be heading to the Emirates, according to Barcelona director of football Andoni Zubizarreta. He said: “In January we will keep Villa. “It is important to remember that Barcelona is a club that habitually does not accept offers for star players in January.”
Positive vibes: Why Villa thrashing showed Chelsea fans should ignore Rafa and continue cheering the side to success (Martin Lipton, Daily Mirror) The reality is that a large percentage of Chelsea fans will never accept Benitez, even fewer will ever contemplate warming towards the man many dismiss as the “Fat Spanish Waiter”. On Sunday, though, Benitez served up a sumptious feast, the sort of display that makes his talk of getting back into the title race appear more than a nonsense. And while the Chelsea connoisseurs, the epicurean consumers of champagne football, will not consider handing out any Michelin Stars to the manager, they may, grudgingly perhaps, agree that silence about Benitez could become golden. Benitez is reluctant to make any grand predictions at this stage, although he memories of coming from nine points behind Real Madrid in February 2004 to win La Liga with Valencia spurs him on. Chelsea, now, with a game in hand – against Southampton – are back in third, admittedly still 11 points adrift of Manchester United but looking like a team with something refreshing and determined about them.
Luiz can be the man in the middle (Sun) Rafa Benitez is ready to make David Luiz a permanent fixture in midfield as Chelsea battle to get back into the title race. The Blues jumped to third in the Premier League by thumping outclassed Aston Villa 8-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. And centre-back Luiz, who scored the second goal with a superb free-kick, could stay in the middle of the park after impressing against the Villans. Interim boss Benitez said: “He has the ability to play either position and he has been a fantastic defender at this club. “People say that central midfield is also a role for him and I think they are right. “You still have to have discipline and be in the right position and you can’t take liberties.
Merry Mario leads Manchester City training as defending champions gear up for festive period (Andy Hampson, Daily Mail) Making up two points on leaders and fierce rivals Manchester United would have bought more than a hint of festive cheer to City’s training ground on Christmas Eve. And the presence of the club’s very own crackers character Mario Balotelli gave the squad a lift, as did the sight of captain Vincent Kompany coming through the session. In fact, so good was the spirit in camp that youngster Matija Nastasic, who has previously enjoyed a winter break in Italy, said he was relishing his first taste of England’s traditionally busy Christmas schedule.
Michael Owen returns to Anfield
Owen wants the monkey off his back as he targets first ever goal against Liverpool when Stoke visit Anfield on Boxing Day (Phil Medlicott, Daily Mail) Owen – who departed Anfield for Real Madrid and moved on to Newcastle and Manchester United before joining Stoke this season – told Independent Sports News: ‘It is a strange feeling really playing against your old club, especially one where you were there for around 15 years. ‘Liverpool are a big part of my life and career and I had some of the best times of my life at the club. ‘So certainly I have happy memories. I have not been so happy playing against them since; I have never scored and not particularly enjoyed it.’
West Ham & Everton appeal red cards
Everton to appeal Darron Gibson sending off at West Ham while Carlton Cole challenges his red card in same match (Daily Telegraph) Everton announced on Monday that they will appeal against Darron Gibson’s sending off in Saturday’s 2-1 win at West Ham, with Carlton Cole also disputing a red crard from the same game. Former Manchester United midfielder Gibson was dismissed by referee Anthony Taylor for a high challenge on West Ham’s Mark Noble in the closing stages at Upton Park. Hammers striker Cole had earlier been sent off for a similar challenge on Everton defender Leighton Baines and will also appeal that decision. Everton’s appeal means Republic of Ireland international Gibson will be able to play in the Boxing Day match against Wigan on Wednesday, with the case due to be heard the following day.
Harry Redknapp on Jose Bosingwa
Bosingwa may never play for QPR again (Sun) Harry Redknapp admits he may never pick Jose Bosingwa again after the right-back’s refusal to sit on the bench for QPR’s game with Fulham. Bosingwa, a Champions League winner with Chelsea last season, was fined £130,000 when he stormed out of Loftus Road after being told he would not be in the starting XI. Redknapp responded by blasting the Portuguese ace and other under-performing members of his squad, branding them ‘average and overpaid’. And the former West Ham boss did not hold back when it came to his Press conference ahead of his the Boxing Day clash with West Brom.
The Guardian list the top 100 footballers in world football
The world’s top 10 footballers: why are they so good? (Guardian) 1) Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina) There was only one name and one position on which all 11 members of the panel were in unanimous agreement: the world No1, Lionel Messi. How could we not choose him? The debate has moved to another plane: it is not so much a question of whether Messi is the best player in the world right now, as whether Messi might just be the best player there has ever been. He has been making the extraordinary look ordinary for four years now, producing astonishingly brilliant performances with a regularity that has made them no longer astonish. That is just what he does: another great goal from Messi.
Sid Lowe on Malaga
Málaga teach Real Madrid a lesson but cannot fathom Uefa’s punishment (Sid Lowe, Guardian) It was the first time that Málaga had defeated Real Madrid in 29 years. All the focus was on Madrid. Another fight, another fire, but there was another story: Málaga. Victory took them to within two points of Madrid in fourth place; it also took them to 31 points. Pellegrini had promised the players that if they reached 30 points before Christmas they could have an extra couple of days’ holiday; just as he promised to buy them dinner if they won away to Anderlecht in the autumn. Both times they did their bit; both times so did he. “I didn’t want to [give them until the 2nd],” Pellegrini said, “but there you go. I’ve fulfilled my promise and, although we have a small squad, they have shown a real commitment, both physically and mentally. Beating Madrid after so many years and fighting for next year’s Champions League … it’s been a brilliant year in every respect.”